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Marielle Thompson takes national ski cross title

Chris Del Bosco finishes on high note

Whistler's Marielle Thompson wrapped up her first season with the Canadian Ski Cross team on a high note, edging out World and X Games champion Kelsey Serwa on Saturday at the national championships at Lake Louise.

It was a big result for the 18-year-old, who finished the 2010 season with a NorAm title before joining the national team for all of 2011. She's been solid addition to the team, making the small finals three times and finishing in the top 16 in all but two races.

"I was behind Kelsey the whole way," said Thompson. "I didn't really think I could pass her but I can carry my speed pretty well and I just got her on the last jump."

Serwa, who was Canada's top racer this season after Ashleigh McIvor went out with a knee injury, gave credit to Thompson for her strategy.

"Marielle just drafted me," she said. "It was clean. Good for her. It was exciting. I wanted to win, but second is good. I'm glad my teammate is on top of the podium."

Whistler's Catriona Blair, a new addition to the team at the end of the season, placed third overall. Elianne Taillefer from Quebec was fourth. Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer Victoria Konantz was sixth.

The women's team had its share of injuries this year. Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor and Julia Murray have both undergone knee surgery this year, while Whistler's Stan Rey has been recuperating from a sprained pelvis and torn groin muscles after a crash at the World Cup in Ontario. Even Thompson didn't make it through the season unscathed, tearing ligaments in her thumbs at the X Games. She still managed to compete in the World Championships the following week with a mix of splints and tape.

Chris Del Bosco made up for a late start this season with wins at the World Championships and X Games, three World Cup wins and a total of five World Cup appearances. He was the favourite going into nationals and didn't miss a beat all day in winning the men's title. The real surprise of the day was the second place result posted by Alberta's Tristan Tafel - the 2011 NorAm champion - ahead of national team members Dave Duncan and Davey Barr.

From Whistler, Brian Bennett was fifth, Rob Lepine seventh, Tyler Murray 13th, Collin Zwickel 16th and Jake Lepine 20th.

"It was good to finish off on a high note," said Del Bosco. "It's big. When you are racing against your teammates there's definitely something on the line there."

National team coach Eric Archer gave high marks to Tafel, who passed two skiers on his way to the silver medal. "Tristan was in fourth place at the top and second at the finish and that's against the big boys," he said. "That's impressive.

"With Marielle, I was talking to her this week, trying to get her fired up. She has natural speed and a lot of people saw that in the finishing straight. That should give her confidence going into next season."